Northwest Missouri State's volleyball team ignited a strong belief that an upset of No. 3 Washburn was possible by taking the first set off the undefeated Ichabods in dramatic fashion Tuesday night.
In the second set, Washburn grabbed control of the match and never let the upset-minded Bearcats back in it.
Northwest dropped sets two, three and four by at least eight points, allowing a most promising start to disintegrate into a 3-1 loss to Washburn in a matchup of two of the three conference tri-leaders at Bearcat Arena.
Washburn never trailed in any of the last three sets and built double-digit leads in two and three, taking both 25-16. The Ichabods won the fourth set 25-17 with seven straight points at the end.
This followed a first set in which Northwest (8-5, 4-0) never faced more than a one-point deficit before winning in extra points 27-25.
"We didn't manage our emotions and they out-performed us as far as getting back to the basics of what they wanted to," said Northwest Missouri State interim head volleyball coach Amy Phelps. "It really came down to the focus. They just more pressure on us then we could handle and that's what good teams do. We just couldn't sustain that."
The Icahbods (13-0, 4-0) beat Northwest for the fourth straight time since being upset at Bearcat Arena as the No. 2-ranked team in 2010. Northwest had its four-match win streak snapped, but remained perfect in conference since this match didn't count in the MIAA standings.
The match with conference implications will be played at Washburn Oct. 19.
Washburn hit .296 or better over the final three games and finished with a .252 attack percentage that dwarfed Northwest's.
Senior outside Jessica Fey, the MIAA's second leading attacker, posted a match-high 15 kills. Her most emphatic came with the 'Bods up 15-11 in the fourth set, drawing a loud ovation from the Washburn contingent and a fist pump from fired-up head coach Chris Herron.
Jessica Kopp (14 kills) and Marissa Cox (11 kills) gave the Ichabods two additional hitters in double-figures.
All three hit .281 or better, led by Cox at .526. Cox also had four blocks.
"I don't think that the hard attack really scared us," said Phelps. "I think us not being able to stay in system and to get something going offensively right back at them is what hurt us the most. They're going to get their swings in because they're a good team, but you can stop people by taking them out of system, and I just didn't feel like we did that."
The Bearcats were much less effective on the offensive end throughout the match.
Northwest committed 29 attack errors—11 more than the Ichabods—and hit .094—their lowest against an MIAA opponent.
The Bearcats hit less than .100 in each of the first two sets and mustered only six kills in the second.
Abby Graves (12 kills) and Brooke Bartosh (10 kills) were the only Bearcats in double-figures, but both hit under .100.
The third highest total was six from middle Whitney Mason. She also had two of Northwest's four blocks.
"We weren't in system and we didn't get our middles going," said Phelps. "It's pretty apparent where we're going to go, so then it's easy to get two blockers over there. It's like reading a book. It's very evident."
Freshman Dallas Gardner (24 assists) and junior college transfer Bridget Hanafin combined for all 36 of Northwest's assists. Hanafin entered the match in the third set.
Washburn setter Abby Wittman delivered 39 of her team's 51 assists.
Tori Beckman tied Washburn's Hillary Hughes for the match lead in digs with 17.
Northwest took the first set off Washburn by winning the final three points after Washburn rallied from a series of four-point deficits to take leads of 23-22 and 25-24.
Northwest staved off a set point to even the score at 25.
Bartosh gave Northwest a 26-25 lead with a kill and an attack error by Kopp ended it.
Things began to fall apart for Northwest in set two when the Ichabods ran off 11 of 12 points to build an 18-7 lead.
Following a second timeout by Phelps, the Bearcats picked up their play to pull within seven three separate times, but never got closer.
Phelps was forced to call timeout again early in set three while the Ichabods were in the midst of a 9-1 opening run.
Washburn kept at least an eight-point lead the rest of the way and widened it to as many as 11.
A kill by Cox closed out the set and put Washburn ahead 2-1 in the match.
With freshman Kelsey Lacy on the floor in place of struggling senior Kelsey Larson in the fourth set, the Bearcats stayed within a three-point margin until Washburn opened up a 12-8 lead.
A kill by Fey made it 15-10, and induced another Phelps timeout.
Still down five points, Northwest put together its best stretch since the opening set to pull within one at 18-17.
The Ichabods called timeout and responded with seven straight points to close the match.
Washburn had five kills during the stretch and scored the final point on a double block by Lewis and Cox.
"I feel like it's a test," said Phelps. "Any match you have is a test. Obviously, we didn't earn a passing grade, but the lessons you learn from it are the most important things."
By Joey Falkoff email@example.com
The Maryville Daily Forum - Maryville, MO
By Joey Falkoff firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated Sep. 26, 2012 @ 3:39 am
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